Space exploration has always been a realm of innovation, inspiration, and groundbreaking achievements. Among the trailblazers who have contributed significantly to our understanding of the cosmos are Latinas who have left an indelible mark on space exploration history. In this article, we celebrate several remarkable Latinas whose contributions have paved the way for future generations of space scientists and astronauts.
Dr. Ochoa was the first Latin woman to travel to space. She was selected by NASA in January 1990 and became an astronaut in July 1991. To date, Dr. Ochoa has participated in 4 trips as an astronaut (1993, 1994, 1999 and 2002) accumulating about 1,000 hours in space.
Dr. Ochoa has received numerous awards, including the Harvard Foundation Science Award, the Outstanding Women in Aerospace Achievement Award, and the Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award. Dr. Ochoa received a BS in physics from San Diego State University in 1980, followed by an MS and Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University in 1981 and 1985, respectively.
Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor, M.D.
Dr. Auñón-Chancellor was chosen from thousands of people to be an astronaut and was the first woman of Cuban origin to travel to outer space. At just 42 years old, she had already led various teams on projects such as the Orion spacecraft, for which she was deputy director of medical operations.
She studied electrical engineering at George Washington University. Halfway through her engineering career, she made the decision to study medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch, which offered a combined residency program in internal medicine and aerospace medicine.
A Pioneer in Plasma Propulsion: Born in Costa Rica, Franklin Chang-Diaz is a renowned astronaut and scientist who holds the record for the most spaceflights by an American astronaut. He is a true pioneer in space propulsion technology, having developed the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR), which has the potential to revolutionize deep space exploration.
Evelyn Miralles was the principal engineer and technology strategist for the Johnson Space Center Virtual Reality Laboratory where she worked for more than 20 years. Evelyn migrated to the United States from Venezuela when she was 20 years old and studied computer science and virtual reality at the University of Houston. Then she pursued a postgraduate degree in space science at Harvard University.
Colombian engineer Diana Trujillo is the leader of the team of engineers from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in charge of the robotic arm of the Rover Perseverance sent to Mars. Diana has made history by becoming one of the most important scientists of our time and one of the most influential Latinas in technology. Her story is an example of improvement for many immigrants who leave their countries in search of a better quality of life.
Diana arrived in the United States when she was just 17 years old. She had $300 dollars in her pocket and spoke no English. She joined NASA in 2008 and became the flight director for the Mars 2020 mission.
Laura Delgado Lopez
Puerto Rican Laura Delgado López is a public policy analyst at NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. She did not study engineering nor has she dedicated her life to research or laboratories. Her first exposure to space politics came while she was interning as a political science student in Washington D.C.
Since 2018, Laura has supported NASA’s robotic missions to explain their purpose and procedure. She consults with NASA on compliance with the policies, laws and regulations that affect these activities.
Dr. Sonia Guimaraes, a Brazilian physician, played a crucial role in advancing space medicine. Her research on how spaceflight affects the human body’s cardiovascular system has been instrumental in ensuring the health and safety of astronauts during extended missions. Guimaraes’ work has contributed to our understanding of human adaptation to space environments.
Ali Guarneros Luna
The Mexican Ali Guarneros Luna is a collaborator of the Office of Security Systems and Mission Assurance at NASA. Her life story is inspiring because she knew how to overcome difficult challenges. She migrated with her mother and her brothers to the United States after the 1985 earthquake that devastated much of Mexico City. Today she is a full-time collaborator at the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley and is in charge of developing technologies that save time and money, such as low-cost miniature satellites that help future space missions.
The accomplishments of these Latinas in the field of space exploration serve as a testament to their dedication, intelligence, and resilience. Their contributions have expanded our knowledge of the universe, pushed the boundaries of science and technology, and continue to inspire generations of aspiring scientists, engineers, and astronauts. As we celebrate their achievements, we also look forward to a future where diversity and inclusivity in space exploration remain at the forefront of our quest to understand the cosmos.